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South Africa
By ESPN Staff

Staunton: We were taught a lesson

Republic of Ireland manager Steve Staunton admitted his players were handed a footballing lesson by an irrepressible Holland side.

Staunton's makeshift Ireland were comfortably swept aside 4-0 by the Dutch at Lansdowne Road, with debutant Klaas Jan Huntelaar the star of the show as he scored two and created the other two.

It was Ireland's worst home defeat for many a year, falling one goal short of the record on Irish soil, that a 5-0 embarrassment to Spain at Dalymount Park in 1931.

Admittedly, Staunton was without several key names such as captain Robbie Keane, Shay Given, Damien Duff, Andy Reid, Richard Dunne and Ian Harte.

But then Holland are very much in a transitional period, with coach Marco van Basten employing many inexperienced players in his side as he has opted to dispense with a lot of the old guard after a disappointing World Cup.

Staunton will now desperately hope many of his big-game players return for the crucial opening fixture of the Euro 2008 qualifiers against Germany in Stuttgart on September 2.

To add to his woes, though , stand-in captain Steven Reid and Stephen Carr suffered ankle and hamstring injuries that could now make them doubts.

'The Dutch showed their class and gave us a lesson,' admitted Staunton. 'We never got near them in the first half, and basically they did to us what we wanted to do to them.

'We all know there were mistakes in there, and you can't legislate for those, but players do make them.

'I'm not too concerned now, but I know we've a lot of hard work to do. We are building for the future, and that was shown tonight.

'With a little bit of luck we will have everybody fit for the game with Germany, and if that is the case then we will be in a lot better shape.'

The mounting injury crisis has clearly gnawed away at Staunton over the past few days, adding: 'We've 17 days to go before the game with Germany, and we've a lot of injuries.

'Apart from those already out we've another couple of scares to now contend with, with Steven Reid and Stephen Carr.

'We won't know how they are for another 24 to 48 hours until their injuries settle down. We'll have some idea after that, but they're another two to add to the growing list.

'I'm going to have to wait and see who comes in in a couple of weeks' time because I can only work with those players.'

Huntelaar, in for the axed Ruud van Nistelrooy, proved he is a star on the rise, opening the scoring in the 25th minute with a powerful header.

He then set up Chelsea winger Arjen Robben four minutes from half-time with a neat backheel after a suicidal back pass from Stephen Elliott.

Despite a bright start to the second period for the Republic after four changes, Huntelaar added the third in the 53rd minute with an exquisite chip over advancing goalkeeper Paddy Kenny.

Seventeen minutes later and the 23-year-old Ajax striker played in Arsenal forward Robin van Persie for a rasping drive in off the underside of the crossbar.

In attempting to find some positives, Staunton added: 'I thought in the second half, some of the young lads who came in acquitted themselves well.

'We had a couple of chances in the second half, although if the Dutch had had those then they would have scored.

'Another pleasing aspect is they kept going to the end. They left themselves open a wee bit, but they were chasing and trying to score.

'Obviously, we can work on things in training and hopefully they'll take on board what we are trying to do.'